Former governor B-B-Babbitt signs recall petition

August 7, 1987

By LORI K. WEINRAUB
United Press International

PHOENIX — Former Arizona governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Bruce Babbitt signed a petition Friday to recall his successor, Republican Evan Mecham, and said he likely would vote to remove him from office.

“I am not blind. I do have opinions,” Babbitt told reporters after a speech to the Young Democrats of America.

However Babbitt would not discuss his opinions, saying only, “My signature is a statement.”

Babbitt said he would not play an active role in the recall movement, nor was he interested in running for governor. But when asked if he would vote to retain Mecham, he said, “not likely.”

Babbitt, who served nine years as governor, said he believes a referendum on Mecham’s first six months in office “is appropriate.”

“This has gone on to the point where citizens are entitled to have a say,” he said.

Meantime, Babbitt repeated his call for a 5 percent consumption tax to cut the federal budget deficit.

The candidate said reaction to his controversial tax proposal has been “encouraging.”

“If you can’t raise revenues, you have to gut programs,” he said.

Babbitt also called for “workplace democracy,” where labor and management would work together for economic prosperity. He said management should be willing to take wage cuts if workers are asked to do so.

The former governor also discussed a “universal needs test,” which would allow federal programs to be directed where they are really needed.

“Should we give tax subsidies to people to buy ski condos?” Babbitt said. “Or to the Rockefellers, the Mellons and the duPonts — do they have to get the same benefits as people who really need them?”

Babbitt also the nation should make an investment in its children by giving day care vouchers to all working parents.

Babbitt drew cheers when he said he hopes the peace meeting between five Central American presidents in Guatemala City leads to an end to all aid for the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

He also criticized President Reagan’s peace plan for the region, and quipped that if the House-Senate hearings on the Iran-Contra affair had continued, “the committee may have discovered a connection between Ronald Reagan and the presidency.”

The candidate also said he was opposed to Reagan’s policy to put U.S. flags on Kuwait’s oil tankers, although he supports a strong naval presence in the Persian Gulf.

Babbitt mentioned Mecham twice in his speech to the Democrats. The former governor said Arizona is a great state “even if the governor now is not exactly the embodiment of our aspirations.” He also told the group the circumstances that led to his becoming governor. Babbitt, who was attorney general at the time, became governor in 1978 after former Gov. Raul Castro resigned, and his replacement, Wesley Bolin, died in office.

Babbitt said the resignation was an “interesting precedent.”

“Maybe we should try to work that out today,” he said.

Mecham made national headlines earlier this year after he rescinded Babbitt’s executive order that created a state holiday in honor of the late Martin Luther King Jr. Mecham said Babbitt’s order was illegal.